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5 key Bengals to watch for against the Ravens

These five Bengals are going to have to contribute mightily to earn a win on Sunday in Baltimore.

St Louis Rams v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

I don’t know if there’s ever been a more appropriate time for this article series than right now. As it stands the Bengals are essentially disheveled, because losing Giovani Bernard as well as A.J. Green means you’re without a pair who produced upwards of 40 percent of the team’s offense this year. Now, the team is going to have to look for other playmakers in order to move the ball against a stout Baltimore defense. I’m not saying any of the name on this list is going to light up the field, but I am willing to bet they’ll be used much more in the coming weeks than they have to this point.

1.) Cody Core

Without Green, the Bengals didn’t have a receiver against Buffalo who could stretch the field and blow the top off of coverages. It allowed the Bills’ defense to play safe, vanilla defense that didn’t really take anyone away in particular, with exceptions being made for certain formations where they keyed Tyler Eifert. Core should be active on Sunday, if for nothing else than to run an occasional 9 route to pull safeties back deep and open up some underneath routes. Core could have a shockingly good game, as he won’t be double covered and should be working mostly deep routes. By no means would I ever consider playing him in a fantasy league, but there’s a good chance you could be talking about him around the water cooler on Monday.

2.) Rex Burkhead

Burkhead will be doing his best to mop up some running back duty for Giovani Bernard. His role could be diminished with Cedric Peerman’s return from Injured Reserve, but probably not as immediately as this week. Burkhead is going to be most effective in receiving situations working out of the shotgun. He has the capability to work out of the slot so Zampese may try to move him around with some motions to cause mismatches. It’d be foolish to expect Bernard-like production from Burkhead this week, but I think he’ll perform admirably in relief of the North Carolina Tar Heel. The only area he worries me in is pass protection, as no Bengals running back (aside from Bernard) has a decent blocking game.

3.) Tyler Boyd

I’m sure the Bengals are happy they drafted a receiver now. Tyler Boyd may not exactly have eye popping stats (33 catches, 349 yards, and one touchdown), but for a Bengals rookie receiver it’s pretty great. With 151 more yards, Boyd would become just the third receiver in the Marvin Lewis era to have 500 yards receiving in his rookie year. He should definitely get there barring an injury, as Andy Dalton needs weapons and Boyd certainly qualifies as one. I would expect several plays on Sunday to be drawn up specifically with the Pitt product in mind, as his ability to throw, run, and catch make him a diverse tool in the offense. It hasn’t happened to this point, but the Bengals don’t really have anything to lose.

4.) George Iloka

The biggest threat on the Baltimore offense is the passing game, as Steve Smith Sr. and Mike Wallace are a dynamic duo at the position. Wallace in particular is on fire, with 462 receiving yards in the last four weeks. Iloka is going to need to provide adequate safety help for his cornerbacks, as the speedster will likely burn them deep a few times. Iloka has quietly been having a fairly disappointing season, but he’s picked it up in recent games so I’m hoping that trend continues into Baltimore.

5.) Karlos Dansby

One of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets is Dennis Pitta, and Pitta ranks second in the league for receptions by a tight end. Dansby has been highly suspect in coverage, despite excelling in exactly that in Cleveland just one year ago. That said, he’s going to need to do a much better job than he’s been doing in order to mitigate what damage Pitta can do. Historically, the Bengals haven’t ever really done a great job of stopping a pass catching tight end, and with the given situation, they desperately need that to change. Dansby will likely be on the end of a few crucial third down plays, for better or for worse.